Five Hundred years. That's how long Hope has waited, prayed and begged for her mate to be healed.
Five Hundred years. That’s how long Raza has been locked within his mind unable to remember who he was.
When Hope is approached and told there could be a cure but he wouldn't be the same male she remembered, she was willing to take the chance if only to hold the male she loves in her arms again.
Raza dragged a deep calming breath in through his nose and let it out slowly through his mouth. His palms sweated and he prayed the scent he had put on earlier would hold up to the nervous sweat running down his back. He clenched the wildflowers tightly in one fist and pushed his green hair off his face with his other hand. One more deep breath and he knocked firmly on the estate door.
The female who answered was not the one he had come to see, but one of her hatchmates. She was one that many males whispered about and Raza made it a point to stay as far away from as possible while courting her sister.
"Greetings." Raza half smiled. "I'm here for Hope."
"Hope," the female yelled over her shoulder, never taking her eyes off him. "Hope. Your male is here," she turned back to Raza and twirled a lock of her hair around a finger. "You know you could dump my sister and court me. I can promise you I'm a lot more fun."
"Samantha, I swear our parents should have eaten you at birth."
He turned from the manipulative female and smiled at the vision floating toward him. Hope was wearing a long, flowing green skirt with two black slashes across her ample breasts. Her light green hair was curled and framed her face like a halo. Raza swallowed hard when their eyes met, she smiled.
"Raza, did we have a date today?"
"Hope." He stepped around Samantha. "No, but I was hoping you were free. I have to work late today and tomorrow so I wouldn't be able to see you for two days."
"Oh, I was just doing some cleaning that can wait." She tossed the towel in her hand at her sister. "Let me freshen up."
"You look beautiful as always. No need." Raza held out the wildflowers. "These reminded me of you this morning."
"Thank you." Hope held them up to her nose. "I love the smell of early spring." Hope placed them in a vase by the door before brushing past her hatchmate. "I will put them in my room when we return." She hooked her arm through Raza's. As they walked down the pathway to the common area of the inner city, Raza wanted to puff out his chest with pride. He was walking with the most beautiful of females and if things went as planned he would be mated with her soon enough.
"Spring is such an amazing time don't you think?" Hope asked. "Such a renewal of spirit."
"I have always loved summer," Raza answered. "Maybe because that was the time when school was out."
Hope laughed. "I loved school. It was a time to get out from under my parents' watchful eyes for a few hours."
"I can't see you getting into any trouble," Raza moved closer as a cart passed them. "I bet you were student of the month all the time."
"Is that what you think?" Hope lightly punched his arm. "I'm a bad girl."
Raza laughed, hard. "You a bad girl? Maybe in your dreams."
"Well if you weren't such an old man you would know."
"Old man?" Raza glared down at her before winking. "I'm only fifty years older and was just starting my training when you left school."
"Like I said—old."
They entered the inner market area and Raza made sure to stay between Hope and others rushing about. It wasn't a busy market day but there were still a lot of people out doing errands. He waved at his mother who was sweeping in front of the family shop.
"Did you want a meat pie?" Raza asked as he spied one of his favorite venders. "I'm hungry."
"I wouldn't mind two or three," Hope said. "I forgot my currency at home."
"I asked you on this date so I'm paying." Raza waved the vender over and bought ten meat pies and three sweet pies. After paying they found an empty bench under a tree and sat down to eat their bounty.
"So why are you going to be away for so long?" Hope asked after finishing two of her pies.
"Father found a large marble slab and wants to get it out the ground in one haul. We have an order that must be finished in two weeks."
"Marble?" Hope licked her fingers and reached for another pie. "That's a hard one to work with, right?"
"It's difficult for sure." Raza used his thumb and wiped a spot from the side of her mouth. "My father believes I'm ready to work on some of the chiseling alone."
"Can I come by and watch?"
"I will ask my father," Raza promised. "But if I make a fool of myself I really don't want you to see it."
"I'm sure you will do fine." Hope leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "I believe in you."
"Thank you." Raza finished his pies, licked his fingers and used a napkin to wipe them. "I have something to ask you. But you don't have to answer right away."
"Yes." Hope smiled up at him.
"Yes? But you don't even know what I'm going to ask."
"I will always answer yes to you."
"Well," Raza took her hands in his and ran his thumbs along the back of them, "I wanted to ask if you would do me the honor of mating with me."
Hope's eyes grew large and filled with tears. "Yes. A thousand times yes."
Raza leaned over and kissed her, putting all the love he felt into that simple connection.
"I guess the next step is talking to your parents."
"Oh they love and respect you." Hope laughed and stood up. "Oh we have so much planning to do and I have to tell my friends."
"Slow down, Hope." Raza stood and wrapped his arm around her shoulder as they started back toward her home. "We have all the time in the world to get started on our journey." He stopped and tossed their trash in a can before continuing on.
"I may, but you are getting old."
Raza rolled his eyes. "That's always going to be your argument, that I'm old?"
Raza laughed and they walked in silence back to her home. He kissed her at the door and waiting until she closed it behind her before heading to his family’s shop in the inner market.